D.J. Short

Waiver Wired

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Justifying Jay

Thursday, September 15, 2011

If you're still reading this column, that means you are either a fantasy baseball die-hard or your team still has a chance to finish in the money. In either case, thanks and kudos. I'd like to think Rotoworld (and this column) has played at least a small part in helping you make it through the season. Fantasy baseball has taken a backseat on many prominent websites, but I'll be here until the bitter end. Promise.


I'm not going to waste your time this week by telling you to pick up Rays' left-hander Matt Moore for the final two weeks of the season. Ridiculous stuff, yes, and he has a chance to be a monster in 2012, but unless he's making a start, his value is pretty limited in redraft leagues. Just enjoy the tantalizing sneak preview for now.


Let's move on to the good stuff. 


Derrek Lee 1B, Pirates (Yahoo: 28 percent owned, ESPN: 42 percent)


Since returning from a small fracture in his left wrist on September 3, Lee is batting .415 (17-for-41) with four home runs, one double and 11 RBI. The 36-year-old first baseman is increasingly injury-prone and generally trending downward in his career, but remember that he is essentially playing for a contract right now. Don't be surprised if the late surge continues. 


Jim Johnson RP, Orioles (Yahoo: 6 percent owned, ESPN: 11.8 percent)


Orioles manager Buck Showalter recently talked about giving Johnson a look in the starting rotation with an eye toward 2012, but the 28-year-old right-hander now has more saves (four) in the past eight days than Kevin Gregg has managed since the start of August. It's difficult to say whether this will continue, as Gregg is still under contract for next season, but it's fairly obvious that Johnson is the better pitcher right now. File him away if you're in the mood to speculate. 


Alcides Escobar SS, Royals (Yahoo: 22 percent owned, ESPN: 43.1 percent)


We pretty much know what we are going to get from Escobar at this point. Sure, he's batting .324 (12-for-37) this month, but his ability to steal bases is what makes him fantasy relevant. The 24-year-old shortstop is 24-for-31 in stolen base attempts this season, including five thefts through 11 games in September. Useful if you need speed and worth a look if you need some insurance for Troy Tulowitzki


Nick Hundley C, Padres (Yahoo: 17 percent owned, ESPN: 11.7 percent)


Hundley's ownership level has increased only slightly since I mentioned him in Waiver Wired back on August 25. Meanwhile, the 28-year-old backstop is batting .380/.436/.620 with three home runs, three doubles, six RBI and a 1.056 OPS over 55 plate appearances during the same timespan. He simply needs to be owned in more leagues right now. 


Marco Scutaro 2B/SS, Red Sox (Yahoo: 27 percent owned, ESPN: 13.9 percent)


While Jed Lowrie continues to deal with a nagging injury to his left shoulder, Scutaro is batting .363 with one home run, 12 doubles, one triple, 26 RBI and 13 runs scored over his last 103 plate appearances dating back to early-August. "Scoot" doesn't offer much in the way of power, but has a knack for getting on base and making contact at a high rate. As part of the power-packed Boston lineup, he makes for a fine pickup in deeper mixed formats or leagues that use a MI (middle infielder) spot.


Jon Jay OF, Cardinals (Yahoo: 12 percent owned, ESPN: 23.1 percent)


After a mediocre August, Jay is batting .442 (19-for-43) with two home runs, three doubles, one triple, four RBI and 11 runs scored over his first 12 games this month. While he has bounced around in the batting order for most of the season, the 26-year-old center fielder has been the No. 2 hitter in each of his last 13 starts. And with a red-hot Albert Pujols hitting directly behind him, that's good news for fantasy owners. 


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Suitable streamers: 


FYI: These are just some names to keep in mind if you are looking for a starting pitcher over the next few days. I'm not going to go in-depth about Javier Vazquez, Doug Fister and R.A. Dickey again, as I have done in previous weeks, so just know that those three remain recommended options the rest of the way. My objective here is to dig a little bit deeper. 


Brett Myers SP, Astros (Yahoo: 32 percent owned, ESPN: 30.2 percent)


@ Chicago on Sunday


Myers has allowed exactly one run in each of his last three starts. Sure, two of those outings were against the Pirates and Giants, but he held the first-place Phillies to one run over eight innings in his most recent start on Monday. His home run rate has bounced back to his career norm this season, hence the higher ERA, but he has at least experienced better luck on the road this season. Not the best play for a win because of the team he plays on, but he's a decent last-minute option to stay alive in a H2H league. 


Joe Saunders SP, Diamondbacks (Yahoo: 11 percent owned, ESPN: 8.1 percent)


@ San Diego on Sunday


I've never been a big Saunders fan, but he makes for one of the better streaming options this weekend. While luck has played a significant part in his success, the 29-year-old southpaw has a 3.39 ERA over 17 road starts this season. He also owns a stingy 2.05 ERA over three starts against the Padres during the 2011 campaign. I'd rate him slightly higher than Myers among my preferred options for Sunday, but that's mostly because of the Padres' offense and their cozy home park. 


Rick Porcello SP, Tigers (Yahoo: 16 percent owned, ESPN: 11.4 percent)


@ Oakland on Saturday


Porcello is generally a risky play in mixed leagues since his fate is often in the hands of the players behind him, but I'm willing to take a chance with the Tigers absolutely rolling right now. To be fair, the 23-year-old right-hander has actually pitched pretty well recently, allowing three earned runs or less in three out of his last four outings. He also has a 4.01 ERA (3.88 xFIP) on the road this season compared to a 5.91 ERA (4.27 xFIP) at home. 


Matt Harrison SP, Rangers (Yahoo: 45 percent owned, ESPN: 44 percent)


@ Seattle on Sunday


Harrison has experienced an up-and-down second half, but the Rangers are hoping some extra rest will lead to a strong finish. Making his first start in nine days, the southpaw gave up three runs over five-plus innings Tuesday in a win over the Indians. While the results were nothing special, he showed impressive velocity,retired the first eight batters he faced and struck out four while walking just one. I love the matchup against the Mariners on Sunday. 

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D.J. Short is a Rotoworld baseball editor and contributes to NBCSports.com's Hardball Talk blog. You can also find him on Twitter.
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